Smile Politely

Week Four: Cigarettes and chocolate milk

I can’t believe that it has been almost a month since I started TYE. And even though I knew at the beginning that this would be a lifestyle change, I am surprised by the number of times that the topic of consumption has come up within the last few weeks. Just the fact that I am now more conscious of my body and how what I put into it effects how I feel, and that in turn effects how I am able to interact with others and the world.

Alcohol: Until I moved to C-U two years ago, I drank roughly once every 3-6 months. Knowing that one of my family members had struggled with alcoholism, I stayed far away from it in high school, electing to be the designated driver for my friends on the rare occasion that we went to a party. My early 20’s was spent living in exotic locales such as Fort Wayne, Indiana and Malvern, Iowa. We didn’t have a lot of friends our age, so when I did drink, it was usually just having a few Woodchuck Hard Ciders on the couch with Joelie. And really, I had always kind of wondered what the point was. I hate beer and I don’t really appreciate wine (call me a philistine, I just don’t get it, or care to.) Aside from that, there are only a few mixed drinks that I like. I pretty much stick with vodka tonic.

But when we moved here, we finally had friends! Anxious to experience all C-U had to offer, I started going out three or four nights per week. But it was more about getting to know people; drinking regularly was just something I slipped into. I know it isn’t about the alcohol because it never occurs to me to drink at home anymore, or at any other time other than when I arrive at a bar and I realize that it’s time to order something.

Not that I don’t enjoy drinking (way too much) once in a while, or that I am planning to never do it again. I guess I am just saying that I am ready for it not to be such a big part of my life anymore.

But what now? I love to go see live music, and some of my favorite people in the world frequent bars, and I might never see them if I give up that social outlet. Do I continue to go out and sit among tipsy people, sipping my cranberry juice with a splash of soda water? Or do I start having more dinner parties at my house, telling people to leave the wine at home? I suppose this is a rite of passage that everyone goes through when they are trying to get their shit together.

Drugs: Without going into details, let’s suffice it to say that in the last few years, I’ve had my share of fun in this arena as well. But it always throws me off energetically. After one memorable experience, I had some energy work done where the therapist told me I had blown out my third eye. It was true, it took me months to recover and be able to connect with my massage clients in the same way. I still participate once in a while, but I would really rather not. It is more important to me at this point to develop deeper spiritually, so that I am able to be present for my clients (and friends and family.)

Food: This is the biggest one for me. In the past, I have tried to deny that I replace food for love, but I’m admitting it here. It’s true. I come by it honestly. I spent entire summers with my grandma while I was growing up, and a lot of time otherwise. When I visit her now, I notice that she would literally put food into my hand five times a day (not including meals) if I would let her. The first thing she always asks me when I walk in the door after my four-hour journey is if I have eaten yet. We will be watching something on TV together, or I will be sitting reading a book, and she will come up to me with some cashews or cookies or her new favorite thing, Activia yogurt (which she insists has changed her life) and ask me if I want some. I don’t blame my grandma. Her mother died when she was young, and with 12 other brothers and sisters, the only way she was able to gain recognition and acceptance from her busy and standoffish father was to get up and cook him breakfast every morning, after which he would often say, “Rhoda, you’re the only one I can truly count on.” So, in constantly trying to feed me, I recognize that she is trying to show me that she loves me, and at the same time trying to gain MY love.

But just because I know the cause of some of these problems, it doesn’t make things any easier. Long term conditioning can be a tough thing to overcome. If I’m having a bad day, the only thing I want to do is go get some takeout or make a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese, pig out on it, then watch a movie under a blanket on the couch.

If I feel like I have accomplished something big, like cleaning the entire house, a busy week with massage clients, or an extra tough workout, my first impulse is to reward myself with a big dinner at a nice restaurant, ice cream, or both. If I’m hanging out at home and experience a lull, I find myself wandering into the kitchen to see what I can munch on. So, yeah. I have food issues.

All of this thinking about my consumption has also created a small identity crisis. I am trying to figure out which parts of myself to keep, and which ones to discard. Maybe I’ll keep the “local music supporter” label, but get rid of the “loves Totino’s pizza rolls” label and adopt the “yogini” one. While these things may seem surface, they all add up to make our whole persona. Lots of people define themselves by the movies they watch, the books they read, the TV shows they like; but that is another column for another week.

And when you act a certain way for a certain amount of time, it creates expectations in other people’s minds. It is hard enough to come to terms with the fact that maybe I’m not a wild child partier anymore, and that if I think about it and am honest with myself, I would probably rather sleep. I have tried to tone it down the last few weeks, and so far, and while people have understood my reasoning, they have still expressed some amount of shock that I am staying in or going home early. I’m even more nervous about what will happen when I do go to visit my grandma, or my sisters, who are used to me going out with them and eating huge 3,000 calorie meals. People don’t like change, especially if it makes them feel guilty about what they themselves are doing. Once, my younger sister yelled (yelled!) at me for how “selfish” I was being during a brief bout of veganism, because she hadn’t been able to enjoy going to a restaurant with me.

I don’t have all of the answers, I’m trying to figure out a way to navigate all of these strange issues and still be comfortable. I DO know this: last weekend I made a conscious choice to behave myself. Friday night, I just had two drinks, Saturday morning I did some extra credit yoga, and then in the evening, I went to dinner and a movie with my friend Lena, and went to bed early. Sunday was the Super Bowl, but instead of going to a party where there was bound to be a metric ton of yummy temptation, I went instead to see some music at Mike N’ Molly’s. I felt SO MUCH better on Monday than I had on any Monday probably in the last year. Getting up to go to yoga wasn’t a struggle like it had been in previous weeks, I practically bounced out of bed. If I can feel this good after just a few weeks of exercise and expanded consciousness, I can’t wait to see what happens further down the road.


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